Today's Witches with Poison Apples

December 14, 2007

A patient of mine came in to be evaluated for every sexually transmitted disease identifiable after an alleged date-rape involving the hypnotic GHB (Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate) which had been slipped into her drink. It was found in her blood in a toxicology screen at her request. This drug, as well as the similarly acting Rohypnol, has recently gotten a lot of press because of the insidious plot it is used for: Odorless and tasteless, it is sprinkled into someone's food or drink, preferably an alcoholic beverage, to render them amnesic for a sexual encounter. Rohypnol, a derivative of Valium but ten times as powerful, is a potent sleeping pill that likewise causes elimination of sexual and other inhibitions, is addictive, and is not licensed in the U.S. Both are available, though.

But guns are also available, aren't they? Using GHB to manipulate someone into doing something she (or he) wouldn't otherwise do is no different than pulling a gun in a back alley and forcing sexual battery against one's will. My patient gave a history that was stereotypical for such an assault: It was time for that last drink, and this young lady suspected nothing unusual about the young man she had met that evening. She even knew him, it turned out, through mutual friends, mitigating any suspicions that a total stranger might evoke. The next morning she woke up with no knowledge of what had happened, but in piecing together the reports from her roommate and even from a telephone call to this young man, she found out that she had had intercourse. And without protection.

Currently, this particular episode is a police matter, for my job as a gynecologist is done, having ruled out gonorrhea and chlamydia, which can cause sterility; syphilis, which can cause anything, including death; hepatitis and AIDS, which can and will kill, respectively; Trichomonas, which causes vaginitis; human papilloma virus, which can cause warts and cervical cancer; and herpes, which can remind her of this encounter at inopportune times possibly for the rest of her life, possibly even putting her unborn children in danger. Like homemade bombs, nuclear secrets, and hating Barney, GHB has websites on the Internet where self-appointed gurus laud the drug as an enhancer of sexual perception.

Until you forget the whole thing, of course.

Recipes are given to make the stuff. Does the information superhighway pose a particular threat to those who want to know? There are many bad things on the Internet, but unless you're a bad person, you won't use any of them to commit bad acts. One piece of information is also there, which states, "It can kill you if you use too much."

The Drugs

Both GHB and Rohypnol work quickly and last for hours. Rohypnol is a drug manufactured for legitimate reasons by a legitimate pharmaceutical company which sells it in Europe and Latin America but not here. The U.S./Mexico border is the main route of entry into the United States. GHB is usually a gar(b)age-lab concoction, the dosage of which is whatever is given to you without your knowledge. It breaks down pretty quickly, so it is hard to identify it if the victim waits too long to seek toxicology studies.

As a doctor, I am ethically bound not to prescribe anything whatsoever unless I've done a physical exam and gotten a pertinent history on allergies, medical conditions, etc. So it really is unconscionable when someone dispenses such a drug without consent or knowledge. Just how many crimes are being committed here?

First of all, there's rape. It is no different than having sex with someone who is beaten unconscious.

Secondly, it's assault with a deadly weapon, no different than a gun, knife, or beating which renders the victim unconscious.

Thirdly, it is fraud, the perpetrator the only one with knowledge of the event which the victim is compromised in reporting, describing, or even remembering.

And fourthly, it is negligence, causing exposure to a host of afflictions for which the victim could rightfully seek damages and compensation at a civil level, all the way through childbearing. Not to mention the entire psychodynamic fiasco the woman has to endure which shatters the real and beautiful meaning of sexual intimacy, subsequently jeopardizing marriage intimacy in the future and feelings of virtue and self-esteem now. Like many things we have dreaded, GHB is now here.

The National Drug Information Treatment and Referral Hotline is a wonderful service for those who want to stay informed and can render information on adverse reactions, GHB addiction treatments, and management of overdoses. Their number is 1-800-662-HELP (4357), and they can help not only with questions and crises involving GHB and Rohypnol, but any drug problems. In the meantime, watch that last call for alcohol.

Are we that far away from bartenders asking us, like the airlines, if any other person has handled our drink and has the drink been in our possession the entire time? Most people who engage in sexual intimacy would rather not wake up with amnesia of the event...or even wake up dead.

Anyone experimenting with drugs should get drug addiction help before anything terrible happens, like suffering an overdose or getting raped in the case of women trying drugs like GHB or Rohypnol.

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